Expanding the grid: Upgrading existing capacity is just as important as building new facilities

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With power demands continuing to rise in Oman, a range of significant efforts are under way to increase generation capacity. Providing more power to a greater number of people, however, requires more than simply building and expanding power plants; electric-power transmission upgrades are also needed. This objective is the focus of a number of national projects.

Privatisation Plans

There are two primary grid systems in the country, and the Oman Electricity Transmission Company (OETC) is the sole transmission firm in the Main Interconnected System, which connects much of the country’s north, including the capital area. Known as the Salalah System, the second primary grid is located in Oman’s southern region, Dhofar. In the more remote areas of the country, electricity is provided by the Rural Areas Electricity Company. There is also the Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) interconnected system, which supplies power to oil exploration and development sites in the central region of the country.

Set up in 2003, the OETC is a closed joint-stock company owned by the government through the Electricity Holding Company, an umbrella body designed to hold the shares of various power-related firms in the sultanate. While government authorities had set a target date of 2008 for the OETC to become private, these plans were postponed after the global credit crunch. A new date for the firm’s privatisation has yet to be set.

The OETC transfers power from private sector generation companies (only two generation companies in Oman have not been privatised) to state-owned distribution firms. These include Mazoon Electricity (MZEC), Majan Electricity (MJEC) and Muscat Electricity (MEDC) Distribution Companies. An OETC statement for 2012 reported that the company charged OR11,763 ($30,654) per MW of power to use its transmission network during the year. And, according to November 2011 figures, the OETC system is supplied by eight gas-fired power stations.

Measuring Demand

Most electricity in Oman, as well as in the GCC region as whole, is transmitted at 132 KV, according to Voltamp Energy, a transformers and panelling manufacturer. However, the country also maintains 400 KV and 220 KV transmission systems. The OETC reported that the load demanded on its system on a day in early October 2012 fluctuated between around 3050 MW and roughly 4000 MW. Peak load was in the mid-afternoon, with demand reaching its lowest point in the early evening. As of September 2012, the OETC had recorded that the maximum load demanded on its system for the year was slightly over 4400 MW. The minimum grid load was around 1275 MW, according to company statistics.

In addition to transmitting power throughout the sultanate, the OETC reports on the current status of Oman’s transmission system and provides updated data in order to determine those parts of the grid that could be developed or expanded. These reports are published in the company’s “Five-Year Annual Transmission Capability Statement.” The most recent statement was published in November 2011 and covers 2011 through 2015. The firm indicates that weekdays in the months of May, June or July, especially on days with higher temperatures and humidity, register the greatest demand on the OETC system. Conversely, minimum demand on the grid typically occurs during the night hours in the winter months of December or January.

The OETC’s 2011 five-year statements also include a demand forecast. In its most recent report, the transmission company predicts total grid station demand would increase by 58% between 2010 and 2015, from 3457 MW in 2010 to almost 5500 MW in 2015. Of the three distribution areas, the OETC expects the most significant growth to occur in the area distributed by the MJEC, where grid station demand is forecast to rise from 820.3 MW in 2010 to 1485.8 MW in 2015. Grid station demand is expected to increase almost as rapidly over the five-year period in the area distributed by the MZEC. The OETC calculates demand rising from around 1100 MW in 2010 to almost 2000 MW in 2015 – a boost of roughly 74%. Grid station demand in the MEDC’s power distribution area is set to rise by around 34% over the same time period, from about 1500 MW in 2010 to over 2000 MW in 2015, according to the OETC’s data.

Expanding Capability

Beyond demand forecasts, the capability report also outlines a total of 53 scheduled and planned transmission-related projects. The OETC noted that the implementation of these developments would expand the number of 220/132 KV grid stations by over 85%, from seven to 13, before the peak load months during the summer of 2015. This should increase firm grid substation capacity by 6000 MVA. The statement also reported that the number of 132/33 KV transmission stations should rise by around a third, from 42 at the start of 2011 to 56 by the summer months of 2015.

One notable project is the construction of the Al Kamil and Al Wafi 132/33 KV grid station in the eastern region of Al Sharqiyah. Galfar Engineering and Contracting, a large, listed Omani construction firm, announced that it had won the contract in September 2012. Valued at over OR9.5m ($24.75m), the contract runs for 17 months, with an additional six months for mobilisation purposes, according to Galfar. Transmission cable installation will be included in the project.

Cooperation Within The GCC

One of the most significant transmission projects for the sultanate is the development of a regional power grid stretching across the GCC. A semi-government entity, the GCC Interconnection Authority (GCCIA) was set up in the early 2000s by the six GCC countries to construct and operate a network connecting all national transmission grids. Although full pooling is not expected for some time, construction of the regional power network is nearly completed, according to the MZEC.

The project is being completed in three phases.

The first stage was finished in 2009 and connects Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This is known as the GCC North Grid. Phase 2 aims to create the GCC South Grid by integrating the independent grids within the UAE and Oman. The interconnection of the north and south grids makes up the third and final phase of the project. The second and third phases were partially completed in April 2011 when the UAE linked up with the South Grid. Oman should be joining the regional network in 2013. The sultanate’s MIS is set to connect with the GCC grid via a 220-KV interconnector with Abu Dhabi’s electricity network at the Omani border town of Buraimi.

One-hour time intervals between Kuwait and Oman should allow peak loads to be shared and spread internationally. This will reduce generating capacity demands, thereby lowering operational and maintenance costs. Capacity savings of around 2000 MW in addition to operational and maintenance savings of up to $300m shared among the six GCC countries should be possible when Oman joins the power grid, according to recent figures provided by the MZEC.

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The Report: Oman 2013

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